James Clapper is not only the director of national intelligence but also, it seems, something of a verbal gymnast.
Witness his performance when it came to whether the U.S. government was collecting data on large numbers of Americans. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper that question in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing back in March. Clapper’s response? “No, sir. . . . Not wittingly,” he said. “There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
Cue Clapper. In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the veteran reporter asked him to explain the seeming disparity between his answer to Wyden and, you know, the truth. “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner, by saying no,” Clapper said, adding that his answer was not technically a lie because of a semantic difference in the intelligence community about what the word “collect” means.